If you’re still reeling from the whipping the Broncos put on the Ravens in the second half of last week’s game, you’re not alone. Peyton Manning put on a clinic and the Ravens did not play well—period.
Sunday represents a new, fresh chance for the Ravens to show the world that they are the real deal.
In Week 2, Cleveland comes to town and will bear witness to the Ravens unveiling their Super Bowl XLVII championship banner. While both teams lost last week, Cleveland lost at home to Miami. Baltimore lost to Denver, a Super Bowl XLVIII favorite.
The current Vegas line favors Baltimore by 6.5 points. If history is a good indication, the Ravens should win the game, but the score may be closer than you think.
In the last six games in this series, Baltimore has scored at least 20 points, and their biggest margin of victory has been 14 points (12/4/11).
The Ravens have won every game in this series since John Harbaugh has come to town – 10 wins, no losses. Moreover, outside of a 27-point performance by the Browns in 2008, Cleveland has averaged just 10.5 points per game against the Ravens since 2008.
The Ravens have been beating the Browns with defense. The Browns haven’t beaten the Ravens in approximately 70 months ago (11/18/07). That said, I think both teams are capable of winning today, and here’s how.
The Browns win if…
1. Trent Richardson gets 150-plus yards
This man is an animal. You can watch him on YouTube playing for Alabama or for Cleveland and he will “jump off the tape.” Stacked boxes don’t deter him. He’s also an above average receiver out of the backfield. If one person can tackle him alone, it would probably be Patrick Willis. Unfortunately, he plays for San Francisco.
2. Brandon Weeden throws less than two interceptions
In Week 1, Weeden threw one touchdown against three interceptions. In 2012, he threw 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Any team should be able to overcome one turnover, but two or more (especially on the road) is not a common recipe for success. Besides, it stands to reason the Baltimore secondary will be particularly keyed in on Sunday after their poor performance in Week 1.
3. They sack Flacco four or more times
Although Denver didn’t have Von Miller or Elvis Dumervil rushing toward Flacco like they did in January, the Broncos still took Flacco down four times last week. Michael Oher went down with an ankle injury, but he’s listed as probable and should start at right tackle. The key here is that Barkevious Mingo, the sixth-overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, will make his NFL debut on Sunday. His motor and tenacity are special.
The Ravens will also have to scheme against outside linebacker Paul Kruger, who while playing for the Ravens last season showed how well he performs in big games (4.5 sacks in last year’s playoffs).
The Ravens win if…
1. They don’t commit a turnover
In a game like this, where the Ravens are going to be emotional for all kinds of reasons and are going to want to prove that the loss to Denver doesn’t define them, one of the only ways a younger, less dynamic team like Cleveland can win is if Baltimore turns the ball over.
Here’s a stat for you: Since 2008, the Browns have turned the ball over against the Ravens 21 times. The Ravens have turned the ball over seven times in that span.
21-7 is also the Ravens’ all-time record against the Browns.
2. Rice and Pierce combine for at least 30 carries
21 carries for 58 yards, which those two backs combined for in Week 1, is simply not good (enough). Point blank, the Ravens have to (and should be able to) get the ground game going on Sunday.
3. They limit Richardson’s yards after contact
As previously stated, Richardson is a runner who looks for contact. He will also subsequently gain all kinds of yardage after initial contact.
In last year (his rookie season), Richardson averaged 3.6 yards per rush and 7.2 yards per reception. He’s a great athlete, but he had to work for every yard. Gang tackling will be key for Baltimore against this back. He’s as powerful as any back in the league, Adrian Peterson included.
Score prediction: Baltimore 38, Cleveland 20.